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girls a brighter future.
Every spring and fall, without fail, I register at least four people (including myself) to run in the Girls on the Run of Central Indiana 5k in Hamilton County. At first, I did it to support a program I believed in -- a program that encourages girls to be confident, joyful, and healthy in a world that time and time again causes them to question themselves, doubt their inner beauty, and consider drastic measures to look like the photoshopped bodies we all see (but have grown immune to) on magazine covers and in the display cases of retail stores. But little did I know back in the fall of 2013 that the Girls on the Run 5k would do more for me than I could ever provide for it.
I remember my first, real race like it was yesterday. In an effort to lose weight after having my first son, I took up running (something I was never good at and always viewed as punishment for talking too much at practice). Encouraged by my husband and friends, I signed up for the Monumental Marathon's 5k in downtown Indianapolis. It was freezing but I finished the race without stopping once, which I considered to be a major achievement. It wasn't until people started asking me about my time that I began to feel self conscious, unsure of my abilities, and even a bit embarrassed.
Fast forward one year, one 5k, one 10k, one 15k, and two half marathons later, I began to volunteer with Girls on the Run of Central Indiana. I had lost the baby weight and, more importantly, found myself. I found the old me: a brave woman who wasn't afraid of anything and enjoyed a good challenge. I don't think I had seen her since the 5th grade! I was excited to run my first GOTR 5k and even more excited to tackle my first full marathon.
I wish I could say the marathon was an amazing experience. Truth is, I hated every minute of it. I'm glad it's over and I don't intend to do it again. But, I'm proud I did it. I'm proud I stuck with my training and I'm glad I was able to cross it off my bucket list. What was amazing, though, was my 5k "recovery run" with GOTR two weeks later.
Each girl I ran beside encouraged me. ME! I smiled the entire way, telling them all how amazing they were for doing something most adults never attempt in their lifetimes. I complimented their tu-tu's, colorful socks, superhero capes, and the wings on their shoe laces. They told me they could show me how to make my own. The words of encouragement never stopped. From the coaches to the girls, or from the girls to their own parents. I overheard one girl say to her dad, "Can we do the Turkey Trot next, dad?"
Their enthusiasm is contagious. Every year they amaze me. Girls running with their best friends, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and volunteers are able to make even the most serious of runners take pause and realize the pure joy that comes from accomplishing something. Whether it's 3.1 miles or 26.2 -- there's a reason to celebrate and relish in the sweet taste of victory as your running shoes skip, hop, jump, walk, jog, or sprint across the finish line.
So join me in May and see for yourself why the Girls on the Run 5k is my favorite race. Who knows? Maybe it will become your favorite race, too. I hope to see you there!